Report Shows Benefits of Home Fire Sprinkler Ordinance in Prince George’s County

The nonprofit Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition, Prince George’s County (MD) Fire/EMS Department, Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute and the Maryland State Fire Marshal’s Office conducted a live fire and sprinkler burn demonstration to release a new study that analyzed Prince George’s County’s experience with its single-family dwelling fire sprinkler ordinance over the 15-year period of 1992-2007. The demonstration was conducted at the Maryland Fire & Rescue Institute.

The study, produced in cooperation with the University of Maryland, concluded that the ordinance had a significant impact on life-safety and reduction of property damage. During the 15-year period, there were 13,494 house fires with 101 deaths and 328 injuries in homes that were not protected with fire sprinklers. There were no deaths in the homes protected with home fire sprinklers. The average property loss after a fire with fatalities in an unsprinklered residence was 10 times more costly than a fire in homes protected with a fire sprinkler system.

“What we envisioned 20 years ago when we started our work to require fire sprinklers in single-family homes was demonstrated in this report,” said William Barnard, Maryland State Fire Marshal. “Prince George’s County was the first county in our country to pass this type of ordinance. Today, with the completion of this study, we have the data to prove that we were right. The biggest fact is the fire fatalities. There were no fatalities in homes protected with fire sprinklers. It is unfortunate there were so many fatalities in the homes not protected with fire sprinklers.”

Barnard moderated the live fire and sprinkler demonstration where two 8’ x 8’ rooms were built and furnished. One room was protected with a single fire sprinkler the other room was not. A fire was started in the unprotected room. After nine seconds the smoke alarm activated. In approximately three minutes, flashover occurred where all the contents in the room were on fire. Firefighters then used their fire hoses to extinguish the fire.

Then a fire was started in the room protected with the fire sprinkler. The smoke alarm sounded at eight seconds. Once the temperature near the sprinkler reached approximately 150 degrees F, the sprinkler activated and controlled the fire.

“This demonstration speaks for itself,” Barnard said. “In the room that did not have fire sprinklers, fire spread within two minutes until the room was fully engulfed. In the other room, the fire sprinkler activated showing how they dramatically increase the chance of surviving a fire, especially among those at highest risk who may be challenged when it’s time to escape.”

The Prince George’s County 15-Year Year History report is available on HFSC’s Web site www.HomeFireSprinkler.org.

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